Rana acquittal in 26/11 is not a defeat for India's cause

A section of the Indian polity and policymakers have viewed the acquittal of Pakistani-Canadian businessman, Tahawwur Hussain Rana— in a case in which he was accused of providing material support to the Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 — with a sense of exaggerated negative bias.

Whether it is the disappointment expressed  by the home ministry, the dissatisfaction conveyed by foreign minister SM Krishna, or the expectedly over-the-top reaction from Narendra Modi, who said the Chicago ruling has “disgraced India’s sovereignty,” it reflects the lack of finesse, sensitivity and understanding amongst a section of India’s establishment when it comes to nuanced judicial, strategic and foreign policy issues.

Rana's case gives vital inputs about how terror outfits like the Lashkar are prized assets of the ISI, unleashed as lethal weaponry to further its strategic objectives. Screen grab from IBN Live

While acquitting Rana of conspiracy to provide material support to the Mumbai terror attacks, the Chicago court found him guilty on two other counts; of  providing material support to the Pakistani terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) and conspiracy to provide material support to the terror plot in Denmark. While the timing of his sentence is not clear — it may take a few months — Rana faces a maximum sentence of 30 years on both counts combined.

In its editorial on Saturday titled “ A small step towards justice,” The Hindu says that “instead of taking what satisfaction can be had from from the fact that a small cog in the jihadist machine that delivered death to the city is now likely to live out the rest of his life in prison, Indians across the political spectrum have been outraged by the decision of the 12-member jury to acquit Rana of having played a direct role in facilitating the attack.”

The Hindu editorial goes on to say that without additional and compelling evidence not much purpose may be served by trying to secure Rana’s extradition. The editorial concludes: “It would be wise, instead, to focus on the real challenge: pushing Pakistan to complete the prosecution of the suspects it has arrested, and to act against the key perpetrators it has so far shown no willingness to act against.”

But the one collateral benefit which accrues from Rana being found guilty of providing material support to LeT is that it’s another step towards the final indictment of Pakistan’s ISI as the fountainhead of global terror which aids, abets and trains operatives of deadly terror outfits like the LeT, al-Qaida, Taliban and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Rana’s case is not just another expose involving the LeT. It gives vital inputs about how terror outfits like the Lashkar are prized assets of the ISI, unleashed as lethal weaponry to further its strategic objectives. It should now be India’s aim to strengthen the prosecution in another case pertaining to 26/11 - filed by family members of some of the 26/11 victims - in a New York court where the ISI has been directly charged.

The outcome of the Rana case has to be strategically exploited by India.

From its first reactions, a section of the establishment is sending a signal that it may once again be missing the wood for trees. The Headleys and the Ranas of the world are but tools. So are organisations like the LeT. It’s important not to lose focus and go after the real masters who are using these terror networks for their ends. These jehadi networks are controlled by the ISI and the Pak army.

India’s endeavour should be to target and expose them. The Rana verdict gives India another opportunity to do so.

Published Date: Jun 11, 2011 04:35 pm | Updated Date: Jun 11, 2011 04:41 pm